Rituxan (rituximab) is a biologic medicine that treats the pain and swelling of arthritis by suppressing part of the body’s immune system. Rituxan destroys a type of white blood cell that has a role in the body’s immune system called the B-cell.
Rituxan can help in the treatment of a wide variety of diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, some types of cancer, and ultimately any disease that involves unwanted activity from B-cells. Rituxan is also used to help prevent tissue rejection in organ transplant patients.
Rituxan is available as an intravenous (IV) infusion. The normal dose is 1000 mg in each infusion. A steroid called methylprednisolone (Solumedrol) is usually given 30 minutes before the Rituxan infusion to help prevent reactions to it.
When starting Rituxan, the first dose is given on week 0. The second dose is given two weeks later. This cycle may be repeated again any time after 6 months depending on the patients’ response.
Some patients feel better soon after receiving the medication, but in others, it can take longer: up to 3 or 4 months.
Important Tests and Risks
All patients should have hepatitis B testing done before starting Rituxan. In patients who have had hepatitis B or are a carrier of hepatitis B, Rituxan risks causing the virus to become an active infection again.
Regular blood tests are not normally required for people who take Rituxan. However, doctors treating arthritis will likely order occasional blood tests to monitor their patient’s blood counts and follow the activity of the disease.
Drug Identification Number (DIN): 02241927 (IV)